DES MOINES — The Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees’ decisive action to manage rising pension costs and save ratepayers nearly $1 million annually will be recognized by the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa on Wednesday.

The taxpayers group will present water works board members with the second annual “In the Public Interest” Award during the association’s annual meeting at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Wakonda Club.

“The board voted last August to freeze the accrued benefits for members of the Des Moines Water Works’ Pension Plan as of Dec. 31 to move employees to coverage under the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) effective Jan. 1,” said Gretchen Tegeler, TACI executive director. “That move will save water works ratepayers $940,000 per year beginning this year, which is a 32-percent decrease in annual retirement costs.”

Incoming TACI president Art Wittmack said the move was not without controversy but it was necessary to ensure the sustainability of the retirement plan in particular and the water works itself.

“The Water Works defined benefit retirement plan had been in existence since 1953 and has been funded 100 percent by the employer for the past 30 years. Market losses in 2008 took a significant toll on the plan and required employer contributions to increase to 27 percent of payroll,” Wittmack said. “The water works board faced a very difficult decision with courage and common sense. In the end, employees and ratepayers are all winners.”

Tegeler noted the Board received outstanding applications for this year’s “In the Public Interest” award, reflecting the many good things that are happening in central Iowa.  For example the City of Bondurant has reduced its property tax rate every year for the past eight years, showing remarkable leadership in the interest of taxpayers.           

The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa annual meeting is open to the public. It will include a panel discussion on metro area public works and EMS/public safety collaboration projects. Panelists include West Des Moines Public Works Director Bret Hodne, Johnston Public Works Director Dave Cubit, Clive Fire Chief Rick Roe, Des Moines Fire Chief John TeKippe, and Des Moines Area Community College Business Resources Executive Director Kim Didier. The cost is $15. To register, call 288-3328.

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